Giants

Recent history suggests direction Giants should go with No. 2 pick

Recent history suggests direction Giants should go with No. 2 pick

SAN FRANCISCO — Pablo Sandoval said he wanted to cry as he rounded the bases and headed for the plate after a walk-off homer Sunday. Somewhere at AT&T Park, there were probably a few team officials who felt the same. 

The Giants never actively tanked — they did the opposite, in fact — but they did finish just one loss away from the No. 1 pick in the draft. That didn't just cost them a chance to pick first, it also chopped about $500,000 off their draft bonus pool. A few minutes after Sandoval clinched win No. 64, the Tigers lost their 98th game, capping a truly horrendous month of September. They owned the tiebreaker by percentage points, having finished one win behind the Giants last season (the teams both had 75 losses but the Tigers only played 161 games). 

The Giants have picked in the top two of the draft just once in their history and it worked out well. They took Will Clark second overall in 1985. A year later, Matt Williams was their selection with the third pick in the draft. Jason Grilli (fourth in 1997) and Buster Posey (fifth in 2008) are the only other top-five picks in franchise history. 

Recent history says they’ll get a very talented player who should develop into one of the game’s top prospects. Here’s a look at the last 10 guys who were selected second overall … 

2017: Hunter Greene, Reds (in the minors)

2016: Nick Senzel, Reds (in the minors, currently MLB Pipeline’s No. 8 prospect)

2015: Alex Bregman, Astros (worth 3.8 WAR this season)

2014: Tyler Kolek, Marlins (in low minors, lost a year to Tommy John)

2013: Kris Bryant, Cubs (was the 2016 NL MVP)

2012: Byron Buxton, Twins (worth 3.5 WAR this season)

2011: Danny Hultzen, Mariners (retired because of injuries)

2010: Jameson Taillon, Pirates (4.44 ERA in 25 starts this season)

2009: Dustin Ackley, Mariners (was in AAA after six years in Majors)

2008: Pedro Alvarez, Pirates (154 big league homers but never became a star)

If you go back a few more years, you can add Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon and Justin Verlander to the list. There are also quite a few busts, obviously. The draft is an inexact science, although the last few drafts probably suggest the Giants should go with a position player to minimize the risk. They have until next June to figure out what they want to do.

Giants look poised to put Mac Williamson in left field Friday

Giants look poised to put Mac Williamson in left field Friday

PHOENIX — After his team was held to fewer than two runs for the 10th time this season, manager Bruce Bochy said Mac Williamson will be in Anaheim on Friday as part of the taxi squad. The Giants need the outfielder to be more of a tow truck. 

This is a lineup that has not gotten in gear in any way, but a red-hot reinforcement is on the way. Williamson was hitting .487 with six homers in 11 games in Triple-A, and while Bochy couldn’t say he’ll be active and in left field against the Angels, it was not hard to read between the lines. Hunter Pence said the thumb he sprained in the home opener continues to give him problems and needs a few days of rest. It seems likely that Williamson will officially be called up Friday, with Pence going on the disabled list. 

“We’ll see what happens tomorrow,” Bochy said. “Mostly he’s coming up because he’s swinging the bat well. We’re hoping he’ll be a shot in the arm and provide some production, and we need some help in that area.”

The futility has the Giants six games out of first after just three weeks of action. The culprit is clear. Johnny Cueto, Chris Stratton and Ty Blach combined to give up three runs over 20 innings in a tough ballpark, but the Giants still dropped two of three. 

They need more than just one offensive fix, but Williamson represents a start. The 27-year-old has never stuck in the majors, but he rebuilt his swing in the offseason while working with Doug Latta, a private instructor in the Los Angeles area who helped Justin Turner became a star. Williamson’s swing has many of the same markers as Turner’s, and he had a huge spring as he continued to work on adjustments. Williamson lowered his hands and added a higher leg kick in hopes of keeping his bat in the zone longer and being shorter and more direct to the ball. 

“In the past I’ve been really active with my shoulders and hands late in the swing instead of just going and attacking the ball,” he said this spring. “I’m trying to just really calm down a lot of that non-essential movement.”

Williamson knew there was not a spot for him on the opening day roster, but hoped to make an impact sooner than later. His torrid start, plus the struggles at the big league level, have made this a daily question. 

“He showed this spring with the adjustments he made that he’s primed,” Bochy said. “He went out and did what we were hoping.”

The key for the Giants now will be to show more faith than they have in the past. Williamson is a .226 hitter in the big leagues, but his 212 at-bats have been scattered across three seasons and plenty of call-ups. It seems he is always one 0 for 3 night away from a demotion, but the Giants would be well served to let him work through any kinks this time. 

The incumbent in left field, Pence, is batting .172. His backups — Gorkys Hernandez and Gregor Blanco — are better fits as defense-first reserves. Pence hurt his thumb while diving in left field during the home opener and said it has never gotten better. An MRI back then showed a sprain. 

“It’s been going in a backwards direction,” he said. 

So have the Giants, but perhaps help is finally on the way.

Bumgarner has pins removed from pinky, to begin strengthening program

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USATSI

Bumgarner has pins removed from pinky, to begin strengthening program

PHOENIX -- The removal of three small pins in Madison Bumgarner's left pinky represented a big step for the pitcher. 

Bumgarner had the pins taken out Thursday and he now will begin the process of strengthening his hand, which was fractured during his final spring training appearance. He could begin playing catch in two weeks. 

"Once he gets that going, I think you'll see him make real progress," manager Bruce Bochy said. 

It still will be a long process for Bumgarner, who is on the 60-day DL and not eligible to return until May 26. It seems unlikely that he's ready on that day, but it could be soon thereafter. Bumgarner will need to play catch for a bit before starting bullpen sessions and eventually a real rehab assignment. Realistically, the Giants are hopeful that he'll be back in the rotation in early June. Bochy said he wouldn't be surprised if Bumgarner beats the initial timetable. 

"But it all depends on (how he feels) when he starts throwing," Bochy added. 

The Giants will get another key pitcher back Friday when Jeff Samardzija makes his season debut. 

--- Hunter Pence has a sore right thumb and wasn't in Thursday's lineup. The timing is, well, interesting. Mac Williamson wasn't in Triple-A Sacramento's lineup, so this could be the time a move is made, but the Giants also will need to clear a spot for Samardzija and they're hoping to stick with eight relievers for now. Stay tuned.